Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is struggling in obscurity and poverty in Wisconsin when he is invited by wealthy heir John du Pont (Steve Carell) to move on to his lavish estate to form a team and to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Schultz seizes the opportunity, eager to step out of the shadow of his revered older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), a prominent wrestling coach and Gold Medal winner himself.
With his vast financial resources and state-of-the-art training facility at Foxcatcher Farm, du Pont appoints himself head coach of the team, eager to win the respect of his peers and the approval of his condemning mother (Vanessa Redgrave).
The dynamic between Schultz and du Pont deepens as Mark embraces his benefactor as a father figure. But du Pont's mercurial personality and psychological gameplay begins to weigh heavily on Mark's shaky self-esteem, undermining his abilities on the mat. When du Pont's favoritism shifts to brother Dave who possesses the authority and confidence both he and Mark lack the trio is propelled towards a tragedy no one could have foreseen.
Foxcatcher is a searing true-life account of three men grappling for their versions of the American Dream.
'Foxcatcher' tells the disturbing true story of John du Pont (yes, a member of the wealthy chemical company family) and his involvement with the 1988 Olympic Wrestling team – more specifically, brothers Mark and Dave Schultz, who were former gold medal winners from the 1984 Olympics. What starts out as an odd friendship between the men turns darker and darker and ultimately ends in tragedy.
In 1987, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) are both coaching wresting at a small high school when Mark gets a call from a representative of John du Pont (Steve Carell) asking him to fly to Pennsylvania to meet with him. When he arrives, du Pont tells Mark that he wants to give him the financial support and training facilities he'll need to make it to the next Olympic games. Du Pont wants Dave to join them as well, but (at first, at least) Mark's older brother is reluctant to sign up.
Almost immediately, it's obvious to viewers that something's askew about du Pont. The movie never really provides the true reasons for his interest in the Schultz brothers or wresting, although Carell does play the character in a way that hints at a latent sexual attraction to Mark (an implication, for the record, that the real-life Mark Schultz has denied, along with many other events in this film). The movie also doesn't provide a good reason for Mark to join up with du Pont, other than the fact that he seems somewhat naïve and du Pont is willing to provide him with both the money and the resources to pursue his wresting goals.
Eventually, Dave joins his brother at the du Pont compound and basically takes over the training of the wrestlers there. This leads to some jealousy issues with Mark, as well as a falling out with both his brother and du Pont, even though du Pont still wants the notoriety of being in Mark's corner when it comes to the Olympics. While Mark is trying to separate himself from his relationship with du Pont, Dave is finding the security du Pont can provide for himself and his family more appealing – a decision that will result in tragic consequences.
Although it went home Oscarless this year, 'Foxcatcher' was nominated for a number of notable awards, including nods for both Steve Carell (Best Actor) and Mark Ruffalo (Best Supporting Actor), as well as a Best Director nomination for Bennett Miller. While all are certainly deserving of the notoriety, it's a shame more attention hasn't been given to Channing Tatum, who gives one of the best performances of his career as Mark Schultz. Tatum is primarily known for his chiseled physique and his leading man good looks, but here he shows some real depth and maturity as an actor, and one can only hope that he tackles more serious-minded roles like this in the future…he's remarkably good here.
As for Carell's performance, it's much more than his makeup doing all the acting. I've long had the theory that excellent comedians can make for really good dramatic actors (see: Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, and Whoopi Goldberg, just to name a few), and Carell shows here that he has what it takes to be taken seriously as an actor. He's smart enough not to try to act through all the heavy prosthetics, and his understated way of playing du Pont makes the character all the more chilling.
'Foxcatcher' is not a fun movie. It's a dark, shadowy one, and probably not the kind of film one is going to revisit all that often. But the characters are so interesting and the actors playing them so memorable that it's hard not to 'like' the film, even if it provides no real understanding behind the events that occur, nor any real or comforting resolution to what happens.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Foxcatcher' wrestles its way onto Blu-ray in a standard Sony keepcase (the type with the flap that needs pulled up before one can open the case), which houses the 50GB Blu-ray along with an insert containing a code for a UltraViolet digital copy of the film. A slipcover with the same image as the keepcase slick slides overtop. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for Whiplash, 'Red Army', 'Mr. Turner', 'Leviathan', and Love is Strange. The main menu consists of the image from the box cover, with menu selections running across the bottom of the screen.
The Blu-ray is Region A locked.
'Foxcatcher' was shot on 35mm film using primarily Arriflex equipment. Grain has been pushed way into the background, to the point that the movie almost looks like it was shot digitally instead of on film. Colors are somewhat muted throughout, which appears to be intended by cinematographer Greig Fraser. While details are pretty decent, some of the indoor and darker scenes do look a little more flat that others. Outdoor sequences, on the other hand, are fairly sharp and have some nice depth to them. Black levels are far from inky deep, but there aren't too many problems with crush throughout the movie.
Other issues, such as any banding or aliasing, aren't a problem, and there appear to be zero issues with any dirt, debris, or blemishes on the print. The transfer appears to be a pretty good rendition of how the movie appeared in theaters, and Sony has once again provided a solid presentation for viewers.
The main track here is an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio one that more than serves the purposes/needs of the film. As one might guess, 'Foxcatcher' is a dialogue-heavy movie, with most of the spoken word coming from the front center channel. The rears get a limited amount of use throughout, most notably during the wresting competitions in the film (for crowd noise), as well as to enhance the musical soundtrack. The surrounds are also occasionally used for some ambient noises, although actual directionality or any feeling of immersiveness is almost non-existent, with the exception of the wrestling sequences noted above. The track is a competent one and free of any glitches, but it's not anything noteworthy or something that stands out.
In addition to the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, the Blu-ray includes a French 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, as well as an English Audio Descriptive track. Subtitles are available in English SDH, English, Spanish, and French.
There's nothing inspirational or uplifting about the true-life story of 'Foxcatcher', yet you can't take your eyes off it. This tale of tragedy is told through three remarkable leading performances by Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Mark Ruffalo, all of whom disappear into the characters they are playing. For those who just love to see great performances on film, this one comes recommended.